Media overuses the word “icon”. I am guilty of it, probably in a page or two of our magazine. An “icon”, originally reserved for depictions of religious figures, is an easily recognized object or concept that holds great cultural significance to a wide cultural group. Strictly speaking that definition sets a very high standard for an icon. Even in the tradition mad and hero happy culture of road cycling the people, or brands, that truly possess cultural significance are as rare as grand tour wining Roubiax champions. Even among those names, educated and respected individuals could find reason to argue against applying the term.
There is one name, a man and the brand he spawned, that is beyond debate, a name that even the religious connotation of the word seems to apply to. Campagnolo. While religious fanatics tattoo crucifixes, Stars of David, and Virgin Mary’s upon their bodies, Campagnolo fanatics emblazon calves and shoulders with the winged quick release.
Campagnolo holds no promise of eternal life in a paradise beyond, at best they offer a few hours of magical performance. Those few hours are the closest thing to a religious experience many cyclists will ever know. Yes, Campagnolo is an icon. No argument.
Understandably, this sets a high standard for any new products they bring to market. And to be perfectly honest, there have been times when that standard has not always been met. Does the name Record Off-Road ring any bells? Conversely, there are the names that the reputation has been built on and those names have been obsessively cared for by Campagnolo, only applied to the very best creations. One such name is, Super Record. Debuting in1973 it won immediately and set a new standard for drive train performance. It was mothballed in 1987 as C-Record replaced it at the top of the Campy heap, but it was a name aficionados still held sacred. When Campagnolo announced Super Record was coming back in 2008, the cycling world held its collective breath.
Ratios, 11 speeds and an 18 tooth cog.
The debut of new Super Record made headlines for 11 reasons, and every one of them was cog on the rear cassette. While some riders asked the question, “Do we really need another cog?”, the story behind its creation shows 11 speed wasn’t the goal, but it was the outcome.
Campagnolo is a race company and their engineers wanted to deliver improvements that would help win races. They began to focus on creating quicker and smoother shifting. The first step was to close the gap between cogs, which required a narrower chain, 5.4mm instead of the 5.9mm chain used for 10 speed. The next step was to tighten the gear ratios, on most cassettes this meant adding an 18 tooth cog. The result was exactly what Campy was looking for, faster shifts executed more smoothly. Another result was unexpected, they had created room for an 11th cog. It meant they could deliver all this performance advantage without the inclusion of the 18 cog robbing you of an 11-25 or 12-27 cassette.
While the re-launch of the Super Record badge as an 11 speed group sent shock waves, and better shifting, through much of the peloton, Campagnolo wasn’t sitting still. For 2011 they have released a new Super Record 11 that constitutes much more than a simple update. With 11 speeds now working flawlessly they turned their attention to every other aspect of the group, asking themselves how can we make it lighter, more efficient, and faster.
Pivots for White knuckles.
Super Record brakes continue the use of sliver like Skeleton arms, now a staple on almost every Campy group. Using aluminum alloy, the theory is to use the least amount of material possible, but in exactly the right place. They also continue to pivot on bearings, not bushings, to deliver smooth feel. What is new for 2011 is the brake pad shoe holders. Material from the back of the pad holder has been sculpted out, making them lighter and allowing Campy to make switching pads quick and easy. Instead of a fixing screw, the pads snap into the holders themselves. The pad recipe has also been tweaked to deliver the fastest stops Campy has ever produced. But perhaps the most effective new feature is the option to choose your rear break pivot, dual or single. Dual front and back provides more pure stopping force, while the single pivot rear option gives more modulation by putting 70% of the power up front and 30% in back. The single pivot rear also shaves about 30 grams of weight.
While riding there is no question the Skeleton arms are upto the task. The new pad material compliments the brakes beautifully, providing stopping power that is easily modulated from the moment they touch the rims.The new pad fixing is also a real world improvement, making switching from aluminum to carbon pads on race day a 2 minute affair. But without a doubt our favorite feature is the single pivot rear. There is still plenty of stopping force, but it is so progressive, so confidence inspiring, that barreling down an unknown descent is no longer terrifying. Feel free to fly into that corner, and if the radius happens to tighten up on you and you need to scrub speed, grab a handful of rear brake without the fear of locking it up. You can feather in exactly what you need and fly out of the corner safely and on line for the next corner.
Check back next week for part 2 of our 2011 Campagnolo Super Record Review